Recently at the Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas, the System Center Team unveiled details around the next version of System Center Configuration Manager, ConfigMgr v.Next. The theme for this version is User Centric Client Management and allows end users to get their applications when they need them regardless of their computing platform and enables the administration to think user first.
In order to achieve this, a new Application Model now exists. It is intended to manage applications and can have one or more Deployment Types. A Deployment Type can be MSI, Script, App-V, Terminal Services/Citrix or Mobile CAB. Each Deployment Type can have associated Requirements, or rules, that determine if the deployment should happen or if other dependencies need to be met first. These rules are evaluated at the client.
Some other welcomed changes from an administrator point of view are a newly redesigned Admin Console, Role Based Access Control, and Remote Control improvements. The new console now has the same look and feel as the other System Center products, such as System Center Operations Manager and is no longer based on MMC technology. In addition, Role Based Administration will now be part of the product. There will be built-in roles that can be used out of the box for assigning permissions for various tasks such as software distribution and software updates management. Custom roles can also be defined for maximum flexibility. The best part about Role Based Administration is that the role user only sees what is relevant to the role and scope in the console and removes the unnecessary console clutter. Also, Ctrl-Alt-Del is coming back for Remote Control, a useful feature that was available in SMS but was removed in ConfigMgr 2007.
ConfigMgr v.Next will allow administrators to minimize and consolidate the ConfigMgr infrastructure, as the goal for the new version is a relatively flat hierarchy. The top level site is now called the Central Administration Site and is the recommended location for all administration and reporting for the hierarchy. Distribution Points can now be throttled and scheduled. Distribution Points will now benefit more from Distribution Point Groups. When content is added to a Distribution Point Group, it will automatically be added to all the Distribution Points in the group.
Primary Sites main function are to service clients and Client Agent settings can now be configured at the Collection level for more granular control. The way that data flows is also changing (no more inboxes), Global Data and Site Data will use SQL, whereas Content will still be file-based. What this means is that Secondary Site will now use SQL (SQL Express by default) for SQL Replication. Also, site servers and site roles will now require 64-bit. Distribution points are the exception, but 32-bit distribution points will operate at reduced functionality. In addition, SQL Reporting Services is the only reporting solution in v.Next.
There will not be an in-place upgrade from ConfigMgr 2007; however, migration capability of ConfigMgr 2007 objects will be built directly into the v.Next Console. Some of the migration features include the ability to share distribution points during a migration, the ability to schedule migrations and define security scopes, and best of all, clients are going to retain execution history on upgrade.
Other enhancements are getting added to Software Updates and Operating System Deployment. Software Updates will now have the ability to set up auto deployment rules (i.e. think Windows Defender). State-based update groups will allow update to be deployed individually or in groups. And the best part is updates will automatically go out when added to existing groups. Some of the enhancements coming to Operating System Deployment include the ability to perform offline servicing of images. Boot media will now be hierarchy wide and unattended boot media will be fully unattended. There will be pre-execution hooks to automatically select a task sequence. USMT 4.0 will have tighter integration with the user interface and have support for leveraging hard links.
Lastly, Mobile Device Management is getting a major overhaul as System Center Mobile Device Manager functionality will be merging into v.Next. As mentioned above, mobile device applications will be delivered using the new Application Model, along with the ability to enable secure, compliant mobile devices. If we get really lucky, we might eventually get support for other mobile platforms.
There are a ton of other little feature enhancements that are also coming and hopefully I will get a chance to dive into each product feature in more detail in the coming months. The release timeframes for v.Next as announced in the System Center Configuration Manager State of the Union are as follows: Beta 1 – May, 2010; Beta 2 – Q1 2011; RTM – H2 2011.
Update: Beta 1 is now publicly available on Microsoft Connect as of May 24th, 2010.